WASHINGTON, D.C. — Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the chairman of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest, told Breitbart News exclusively in a pre-September 11th interview that the United States government has dropped the ball in the 15 years since the 9/11 terrorist attacks when it comes to keeping potential terrorists from getting into America.
Specifically, in the wake of the attacks, the 9/11 Commission Report recommended that the United States government implement an entry-exit visa program to track people who come into the United States legally—as many of the 9/11 terrorists did—to ensure they don’t overstay their visas. Sunday was the 15th anniversary of the deadly 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“No, we haven’t,” Sessions told Breitbart News when asked whether the United States has followed through—during both the Republican administration of George W. Bush or the Democratic administration of Barack Obama—on implementing a biometric entry-exit visa tracking program as recommended by the 9/11 Commission Report.
Sessions said it is mostly pro-amnesty “special interest interference” blocking such common sense national security focused reforms.
“It’s a combination of things—special interest interference and bureaucratic dragging of feet and pressure from activist groups and business groups that have blocked this plain, common-sense, that we are absolutely able to execute immediately virtually,” Sessions said. “So it’s really frustrating. Actually, the first legislation to require a biometric entry-exit system was in the 1996 Congress. So that’s 20 years ago. Then, we’ve had three or four more legislative acts to call for this and it has not occurred. I would just say this on how it got started, particularly the 9/11 Commission said the failure to have a biometric entry-exit system threatened the security of the United States and it was one of their top recommendations for the United States to carry out. They came back 10 years later and reviewed how well their recommendations had been followed and one of the few dramatic failures was the entry-exit system. They once again issued a report criticizing the government for failure to produce an entry-exit system and we still haven’t done it.”
Sessions cited an analysis from early 2016 from the Department of Homeland security that there are 500,000 visa overstays per year.
“I think it’s likely to increase in the years to come, as experts have told us, and we’re well past due in fixing this problem and we can do so with a reasonable effort,” Sessions said.
Sessions noted that connections between terrorism and the immigration system are immense, and a serious “threat” to the safety of the United States.
“Terrorism is a great threat,” Sessions said. “We know that several of the 9/11 hijackers were visa overstays and the visa system was used by most of them I think to get into country—and the system impacts most of us. We have clear evidence that at least 40 percent of the individuals illegally in America came on a visa but did not leave when they were supposed to leave. It’s becoming, and it’s going to grow and will become a bigger part of the illegal population in the future. So we have no idea who’s leaving. We brought them in biometrically—they have to have their fingerprint engaged before they enter the United States. But we don’t require them to exit, or clock out, biometrically or otherwise for that matter. So we keep no readily-available list of people who have overstayed their visas. That’s just a very shocking thing, and so easy to fix.”
He added that it would be simple and quick for the government to fix the problem.
“These systems are used by police departments—they carry them in their cars,” Sessions said. “They can stop an individual on the highway, they think he may have a warrant out for him, they make him stick his fingerprint or hands on his machine, and they read his fingerprint and pretty soon it’s like boom: There’s a warrant out for him in Philadelphia, hold him don’t let him go. So this is what we should be doing. And we can do it too, the technology is so far ahead right now it would be easy to do.”
But, he added, the government is purposefully not implementing the reforms.
“Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson says they can do it by 2018—but they could do it by January,” Sessions said. “They could do it in December. It should be done. Politicians are deliberately dragging their feet on this.”
That, Sessions—an early supporter of GOP presidential nominee Donald J. Trump—said makes this election between Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton a “choice that’s crystal clear.”
“Donald Trump’s wall at the border and his other policies of more agents and so forth will dramatically reduce illegality at the border,” Sessions said. “Have no doubt about it, I mean dramatically. Then we have almost half of the people now that are here illegally coming in legally, entering on a visa, and they just don’t return when they are supposed to return. So you need an entry-exit visa system to tighten that up, and we can make great progress at a very reasonable cost on that. So this is common sense, and the question really is—the question is crystal clear: Do you want a lawful system of immigration or not? If you do, then you will end the illegality at the border and you will end the overstay problem—both of which are very doable and Donald Trump will get it done. Hillary Clinton will not, it would be business as usual.”
Trump, in his immigration address in Phoenix, Arizona, laid out how he will implement a biometric entry-exit visa tracking system if elected president, as called for by the 9/11 Commission. Clinton has made no such promise.
“For years, Congress has required a biometric entry-exit visa tracking system, but it has never been completed. In my Administration, we will ensure that this system is in place at all land, air, and sea ports,” Trump said in his Phoenix immigration policy address. “Approximately half of new illegal immigrants came on temporary visas and then never left. Beyond violating our laws, visa overstays pose a substantial threat to national security. The 9/11 Commission said that this tracking system should be a high priority and “would have assisted law enforcement and intelligence officials in August and September 2001 in conducting a search for two of the 9/11 hijackers that were in the U.S. on expired visas.”
Sessions said, too, that the United States has not properly adjusted its tactics in the war on terror. Sessions echoed Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Donald Trump’s running mate, by saying of the two major party candidates for president—Trump and Clinton—only Trump will name the enemy: Radical Islamic terrorism. Pence made the same point in his own exclusive pre-9/11 Breitbart News Saturday interview on SiriusXM Patriot Channel 125 on Saturday at the Values Voter Summit.
“Terrorist attacks were increasing before 9/11,” Sessions said. “Experts were warning of it, but when 9/11 happened it caused all of us to review what was happening, what the danger was, how vulnerable we were, and the country took a lot of strong steps that have helped protect us in many ways. We’ve not had these kinds of disastrous attacks we had on 9/11, but the adversaries—the terrorists—are still determined to attack us. They’re calling on people—lone wolves and cell groups—to attack the United States as well as Europe and they’re going to do so. As in any war, you have to adjust the tactics of the enemy. We shut off one vulnerability, they identified another one. And you just need to shut it off too, and continue to move and adjust to the tactics of the enemy. We’ve not done that. We won’t even call the enemy’s name, we’ve not even recognized the danger of the enemy we face. It’s got to end. I think Donald Trump clearly understands it and he is willing to confront it openly and he is willing to do the things that are proper and lawful to fix it.”